Feb 28, 2008

The next government crisis?

I see the next government crisis looming..

Dan Bus Lines, operating in the Tel Aviv area, has announced that they are canceling the operation of certain lines on Shabbos (I think only after a certain hour). The decision was purely financial, as they say these lines are losing money because of not enough riders until after Shabbos. As far as I know, and as indicated from the various articles I have read, there was no external pressure (from haredim, for example) to force them to shut these lines. Furthermore, they are only shutting certain lines, not all lines, also indicating that it is because these specific lines were losing money, rather than because of external pressures.

So they canceled these bus lines for purely economical reasons. Supply and Demand.

The problem is that they hold a government license allowing them to operate in the form of public transportation. That means, they are not meant to run efficiently, rather they are obligated to provide a service, even if at times it is a losing venture. If they feel the need to cancel a line or change the way it operates, they are supposed to request such changes from the Ministry of Transportation, wait for a review and approval. Only then can they make such changes. In this case, they announced the cancellation without waiting for MOT approval.

Meretz and others are protesting the cancellation, considering it religious oppression even though there was none in this case.

While it is true that Dan must go through the proper channels in order to process the cancellation, protesting the idea of the cancellation seems futile to me, because they have the wrong reasons and are missing the boat.

The thing is, because Dan has not gone through the proper channels, the protest is already in the air. If Dan retracts the cancellation, even if only in order to process it properly, I can foresee the religious parties protesting (how can they not?) Dan being forced to run on Shabbos.

That would lead to a government crisis as Shas will likely threaten (again) to pull out of the government if Dan is forced to run on Shabbos, but legally they are not allowed to cancel it.

The government will have to either speed up the approval process for this request and make it fairly immediate, in order to avoid a crisis, or suffer through the crisis...

The only hope for avoiding needless crisis and unwarranted (in this case) religious backlash, is if Shas stays quiet and lets Dan retract (if it becomes necessary) the cancellation, without voicing protest, as long as Dan then processes it through the proper channels.

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